Disclaimer: Any products/services mentioned or recommended below are suggestions based on our own experiences. We have no affiliation with any of the products or services mentioned and you should always thoroughly and independently research your options to decide what is best for you.
Ideally, your website should have a generous smattering of links, both internal links (those that lead to other pages on your website) and external links (those that lead to pages on websites other than your own).
Over time, page URLs tend to change for one reason or another. For instance, they may have their title updated, or their domain may change. This can lead to your site containing a broken link.
When a visitor clicks on this link, they will likely be presented with a 404 page, which is an annoying experience at the best of times. Furthermore, broken links can have a negative impact on your page’s Google rank. Google wants to serve the best quality content to users, so if Google scans a page and finds a bunch of outdated links, they will take this into account when they are deciding which pages best fit their searcher’s query.
With all of this in mind, it becomes apparent that keeping on top of your website’s links is an important maintenance task for any website owner. But of course, nobody has time to trudge through every post and page on their website on a regular basis, checking every link in sight.
Thankfully, there are some handy tools available that can do this job for you on an automated, regular basis! That way, you can set and forget with the peace of mind that should any of the links on your website become broken – you’ll be notified about it right away and can get it fixed up.
First of all, you need to choose whether you’d like an on-site or an off-site broken link monitor.
On-Site Broken Link Monitor
If you’re running a WordPress website, a well-known broken link monitoring plugin is the aptly-named Broken Link Checker. After installing the plugin, simply head on over to the settings page and be sure to fill in your email address on the notifications field.
Then, on the “Look For Links In” tab, make sure you check all of the places you’d like the plugin to monitor for you. At a minimum, you’d want to check posts and pages, but don’t hesitate to be generous and check everything else in this section too. You can always adjust it later if you come across any issues.
Off-Site Broken Link Monitor
There are a number of off-site services that can check your website for broken links either on a once-off basis or on a regular schedule (usually with a small accompanying fee). Some of your options include:
These tools will work on any website regardless of what CRM software you use, be it WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or any of the other numerous options in the marketplace.
What’s the difference between on-site and off-site?
With the on-site solution, the functionality is provided by a plugin that lives on your own website and uses your website’s resources. With an off-site solution, the grunt work is being done elsewhere on another server.
In saying this, both have their pros and cons, but neither should have large enough considerations to say that one is substantially better than the other. We tend to prefer the on-site option, just to keep everything streamlined and simple! In doing this, your website will use a portion of its own resources while the daily broken link scans are running, but typically, neither you nor your visitors should notice any significant performance hiccups.
Another Option On The Horizon?
Recently, ManageWP announced that broken link checking would be a feature they would soon be adding to their arsenal of WordPress maintenance tools.
It’s also worthwhile noting that they are now listed as the author of the above-mentioned on-site Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress. We’ll be keeping our eye on this feature in future as a possible “best of both worlds” option to monitoring broken links once and for all!
That’s it from us for this week. As always, if you have any questions about this post or our shared hosting, VPS, reseller or dedicated server plans, simply call us on 1300 MY HOST (694 678) during business hours, or submit a ticket through our Support Portal and one of the crew will be in touch!